Cat Hoarder’s Neighbors Help Clean Her Home

cat hoarder helped by neighbors1

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The neighbors of a Fort Myers Shores cat hoarder will be spending the weekend helping clean the woman’s home, NBC2 reported March 20.

Lee County resident Sandra Berkshire got in way over her head trying to care for 72 cats inside her 4th Street home. An anonymous tip led Lee County Animal Care Services to the home on March 18, where more than six dozen cats were living in cages in their own waste. It took more than seven hours for animal control to get all of the cats out of the house. Most of them had fleas, among other issues. Now Sandra’s neighbor’s want to help her out, especially since a few of them gave Sandra cats they could no longer care for themselves.

Here’s a news video where Sandra explains what happened. She had been taking in cats no one else wanted and adopting them out. During the past five years things got out of control. Sandra says she’s been begging for help to find homes for the cats, and is sorry the county had to step in.

Note: is the video below fails to show, please refresh the page, which should fix it. WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Since the cats were removed from the home, the home has been deemed uninhabitable. The neighbors plan to change that on Saturday. They say Sandra has always been there for them as they faced family problems, and now they want to help her to put her home straight.

Anyone wanting to help clean March 22 is asked to email None of the neighbors were aware that many cats were living in one house. Sandra is staying with friends until her home is cleaned. She was given two weeks to get her property cleaned up, or faces a $250 per day fine.

Neighbor Danielle Null said in an interview with NBC2 News

“Now that we’ve got the cat situation taken care of. It’s time to help her take care of herself and get back into her house.”

Danielle also says that had she known about this situation before the authorities got involved she would have done everything in her power to find these cats good homes instead of having them live the way that they were.

The cats are staying at the Lee County Domestic Animal Services, where a Nine Lives Adoption promotion is being planned. The cats from the hoarding case can be adopted for only $9. For questions, please see the Animal Services website, where phone numbers and hours of operation are listed.

There’s no word on whether Sandra is facing any charges at this time. Sandra says she’s embarrassed about the shape of her home, but is thankful she has such wonderful neighbors who are willing to help her get back to a normal life.

This isn’t the first case of animal hoarding this month in Lee County. Several cases have been exposed recently, with more people turning in their neighbors since news media has brought a lot of attention to the Fort Myers area. It’s believed there are more than 100 hoarding cases out there that haven’t been dealt with.



24 thoughts on “Cat Hoarder’s Neighbors Help Clean Her Home”

  1. Bless those neighbors.

    I have some understanding as to how that situation happened and feel so sorry for her.

    As Elisa said, people will dump cats/kittens on you or come with their sob stories if they know what a cat lover you are and know you would have a hard time refusing.

    It’s all about staying in reality and knowing your limitations. It breaks my heart every time to tell someone that I can’t take their cat or the litter of kittens that they found. But, I have to. There have been times when I even had to ask them not to show me the cat or litter, because that is a double heartbreak. On rare occasions, I’ve even had to get mean about it.

    No one person can adequately care for 72 cats inside a home. Unless, they are rich or have a staff, it’s impossible to manage physically and financially.
    It seems that, when a cat lover steps over that edge just a little, they stop seeing that cats in cages, flea infestation, and unsanitary conditions are hurtful to the lives they want to save.

    I agree with Marc too. The way our society is regarding animal welfare encourages these sort of situations.

    • I think that this cat hoarding story differs from the average in that rather than the cat hoarder being vilified, she is being helped. This seems to be the right reaction because cat hoarding is not a criminal matter and most often it is not the result of bad behaviour it is just that something has gone wrong and often people who hoard cats need help as does society in general!

  2. It sounds like this woman just got completely overwhelmed, she couldn’t bring herself to say no to any cat in need.
    Cat hoarders can’t see that it’s unfair on the cats to have so many that they can’t care for them properly, they think what will happen to the cat if I don’t take him in?
    This can happen in Rescue Shelters too.
    It’s good her neighbours understand and are helping her clean the house up.
    Babz and I as CP volunteers once looked after someone’s four cats when she was rushed into hospital, Marion warned us the place was filthy, she wasn’t kidding!
    The cats were well but the litter trays overflowing, the floor throughout the entire house was covered in squares of kitchen roll and under each one was cat poo, no wonder the smell as we walked in was dreadful! Two canaries were in a cage hanging from the ceiling, fed and watered but ankle deep in bird droppings.
    We couldn’t leave the house like that, but what a job we had, it took all day.
    When she came home we continued to help her for a while but like many people do, she started taking advantage. Thankfully eventually she moved away, we just had to hope she kept her new home in a better state.

  3. Well, I feel for this catlover. what the hell is she doing with that many cats? Fleas? Dead give away to a person who needs meds, and should not be rescuing. This, hopefully, will be her wake up call. She deserves the best help that the city has to offer. This should be a lesson to all.

    • When we did our first rescue in 2010 there was a lady in the shelter lobby who said she had 67 cats and was at the shelter for more. A few weeks later we heard about a lady with 67 getting busted and I’ve always wondered whether it was her.

        • I adopted a cat in the 90s who came from a hoarding situation where 125 were in one house. Lee County will stay on my daily checklist since 100 cases may be out there.

          • What is your take on this, Elisa. Why so many potential cases in one county? My roots are in Arkansas, but my relations only have cats to deal with rodent control. In the country. (And I don’t even like to think about that!) But this is obviously a real problem here. Is it something that is more prevalent in the South, do you think? (I have no clue.)

            • I wouldn’t doubt if this woman had people tell her to either take in their cat or they were taking the cat to a shelter. I had a neighbor pull that one on me last week. You just have to say no. I read the case from a few weeks back and that person wouldn’t turn on lights in her home. I don’t see how someone can have a house full of caged cats and not see something is very wrong.

              • I think that part of the problem for a cat hoarder is that the may have difficulty in managing their own lives. There are a number of factors and forces at work in respect of cat hoarding. It isn’t just about a mentally ill person. They can simply be a person who has difficulty coping and who is tender towards vulnerable cats.

      • This lady sounds as if she is a cat hoarder because there is no need to go to a shelter and look for more cats when she had 67 already. Alternatively, when people dump cat on a person’s doorstep and that lady cannot turn the cats away, cat hoarding is forced upon a person.

  4. And I still can’t imagine how a person could even walk in their home with that many cats. Where would the person sleep or sit or be able to eat?

  5. I know of several rescues in upstate SC and across in NC who will not give out their home address because people dump animals on their property. I have a friend, Claudia Perez of LA@Cloud9 who has no less than 6 dogs a week tied to her deck when she comes home. The lady may have a mental problem but she may also be the one people dumped pets on.

    • This is the point that Marc refers to namely that cat hoarding is really part of a problem with society and the cat hoarder should not be vilified. I feel fairly confident that you could say that a person who hoards cats is not a bad person. They are not criminal people. You could argue that they are victims of society. This is the point I think that Mark refers to.

  6. This is the way it should be – neighbors pulling together. I hope too that the lady is helped (if she needs it) psychologically as cat hoarding is generally considered to be a form of mental illness – if she is a genuine cat hoarder. She might just be someone trying to help and mismanaged it.

    I suspect that not all people with lots of cats living in a mess can be classified as classic cat hoarders.

    • Michael I think it’s too fine a line. I think that collecting cats makes you mentally change. Hoarding is just the continuance of trying to help.
      I find it hard to hate hoarders. If you see a cat who will die – how can you leave it to die? Even if your place is bad you might try to give the cat at least a small chance by taking it in.

      The mental problem is not with the hoarders.

      The mental problem is with society.

      Hoarders are a negative symptom of societies mental health situation regarding animal welfare.

      Therefore I do not hate hoarders. Some are terrible but I have a feeling it can happen to the best of us.

      I don’t wish to judge what I don’t know.

      If I lived in the US I could end up in a tricky situation. Since one really has to take in cats to ones limit.

      The hard part is judging the exact limit point and I don’t expect your average person to be able to care and act, yet avoid trouble.

      • I agree. A lot of good people who love cats want to help because a lot of other people abandon cats and create a problem and the good people can’t say no to an abandoned cat and they want to help. So good people are mopping up the mess made by the bad people and that as you say is a society problem.

        In addition there are people who are genuinely, I think, slightly mentally ill who are natural hoarders and that desire coupled with a liking of cats ends up as cat hoarding.

        At the end of the day, if there were no unwanted cats and if there was not an excess of domestic and stray cats then there would be no cat hoarders I feel. In that sense cat hoarding is a symptom of something that is wrong with society.


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